Chow had been relatively gentle in her criticism of the scandal-plagued Ford, calling him a poor role model and his leadership “disappointing.” Her rhetoric was markedly stronger in a speech to an energetic crowd of hundreds in a ballroom at a Westin hotel at York Mills Rd. and Don Mills Rd. in North York.
“There is one thing that I think most people in our city agree on, from east to west, north to south: it’s time to pack up that circus tent at city hall,” she said. “It is time to return to our best traditions — working together, all of us, to get things done. And that’s the way it will be after we replace Rob Ford. After we replace all that nonsense that comes with Rob Ford.”
Tory, the former Progressive Conservative leader, is positioning himself as a consensus-building moderate conservative who would keep taxes low but run a more functional government than Ford and build the downtown relief subway line that is only Ford’s third priority.
Chow, the former NDP MP who began her campaign Wednesday, suggested on Sunday that she will attempt to depict Tory as Ford-lite.
“Hear this, John Tory: there is no such thing as a kinder, gentler version of failure,” she said.
Chow spoke about her desire to cancel the planned three-stop Scarborough subway extension, and related tax hike, and build the less expensive seven-stop light rail line that was originally planned. She framed this proposal as an evidence-based attempt to “take the politics out of transit planning,” though it would involve another heated debate at council and perhaps Queen’s Park.
Chow hinted at a coming proposal on child care, saying the city can find a “practical” way, “within our means,” to make things easier for parents. She provided no specifics in the speech or when asked in a media scrum later.
The speech was light on policy. Chow pledged “change.” She said twice that she would mind the public purse; her rivals say she is a free spender. And she attempted to harness discontent with the state of the city’s economy and public services.
“Unemployment is up. Costs are up, and the services our families rely on are down. We are paying higher recreation fees, we are paying more for transit, and yet it’s harder to get a bus,” she said.
Ford says the city is “booming,” despite the 10 per cent unemployment rate, and that he has improved the economy and city services.
The event, held far from Chow’s downtown support base, served as a show of base and organizational strength. Attendees came from around the city, and they broke into frequent chants of “O-li-vi-a.” Movie director Deepa Mehta gave a heartfelt endorsement speech — which she ended, somewhat incongruously, by saying Chow is a much better dresser than Ford.
Tory will hold a campaign kickoff event downtown on Wednesday night. Ford, Stintz and Soknacki have not yet held rallies.